More information about Nicaragua is available on the Nicaragua page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.
The U.S. government works to advance U.S. interests in Nicaragua, seeking to improve the prosperity and security of the Nicaraguan people and a return to democratic governance.
Nicaragua’s current leaders have systematically undermined Nicaragua’s democratic structures—including separation of powers, the electoral system, and respect for human rights—resulting in the concentration of power in the hands of two individuals: President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo. The ruling presidential couple have worked for years to extend their personal control over all branches of the government, effectively eliminating checks and balances, including by modifying the constitution to extend their rule indefinitely. Electoral manipulation has also given the president a super-majority in the National Assembly, which enables him to change any law, including the constitution, at will. His total control over the Supreme Court allows the presidential couple to dictate judicial rulings to provide an artificial cloak of legality to self-serving decisions. Their dominance over the Supreme Electoral Council enables them to manipulate the electoral landscape, disallowing legitimate opposition candidates and independent political parties. Using these powers, the president and his wife have eliminated space for political opposition, civil society, and independent media.
The government and ruling Sandinista party have created a highly effective police state that monitors the activities of Nicaraguans, leaving citizens fearful of participating in protests or demonstrations, or speaking out in public or on social media. The Ortega-Murillo government is responsible for
enabling widespread corruption and significant human rights abuses, including repressing freedom of expression, threatening or unjustly jailing members of the press, closing civil society space (more than 1,000 NGOs eliminated), unlawful killings, and arrests of individuals for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms. In the run-up to the 2021 presidential elections, Ortega and Murillo unjustly imprisoned more than 40 members of the opposition, civil society, media, and private sector, including seven potential presidential candidates. As a result of wide-spread repression of opposition political actors and a corrupt electoral process Daniel Ortega illegitimately awarded himself a fourth consecutive term in office.
The United States has responded vigorously to the Ortega-Murillo regime’s continued human rights abuses and illegitimate election by offering strong support for the Nicaraguan people’s efforts to exercise their human rights and secure a return to democratic norms. ￼The U.S. Department of the Treasury has sanctioned 47 Nicaraguan individuals and 11￼entities including the Vice President, the first couple’s children, close advisors to the President, and leaders in the Nicaraguan National Police, the National Assembly, the judiciary, and the ruling Sandinista party. The United States has imposed visa restrictions on more than 270 individuals who have enabled the regime in its assault on democracy, including National Assembly members, judges, prosecutors, election officials, officers of political parties, and their family members. The United States has called on the Nicaraguan government to restore respect for human rights. Alongside partners and international organizations, including the Organization of American States and the United Nations, the United States has denounced violations of Nicaragua’s international obligations and called on the regime to change course.
Thus far in 2022 the Ortega-Murillo regime has continued its attack on civil society with the forced closure of over 1,000 NGOs and private universities and the continued detention of over 190 political prisoners.
U.S. Assistance to Nicaragua
The United States, along with likeminded partners, has severely limited aid to the Nicaraguan government due to human rights abuses committed by the Ortega regime in 2018. In addition, consistent with the Nicaragua Human Rights and Anticorruption Act of 2018, the United States uses its voice, vote, and influence at international financial institutions (e.g., International Finance Corporation and Inter-American Development Bank) to oppose any loan or financial or technical assistance to the Government of Nicaragua for projects in Nicaragua, with the exception of funding to address basic human needs or to promote democracy.
At the same time, the U.S. government continues to support civil society organizations, human rights defenders, and independent media in their advocacy for democratic principles and processes in Nicaragua. U.S. government-supported initiatives for young Nicaraguans focus on creating positive and safe environments for at-risk youth through programs that promote work and life skills and increase positive community engagement. The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs implements the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs across Nicaragua, providing hundreds of women entrepreneurs with the knowledge, networks, and access they need to launch or scale their business. To address the humanitarian needs of vulnerable Nicaraguans in the wake of two devastating hurricanes and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, in fiscal year 2020 and fiscal year 2021, USAID provided nearly $18 million in humanitarian assistance and COVID supplemental assistance. Through international and local organizations, U.S. assistance provided support to implement water, sanitation, and community hygiene projects; to supply food and disinfection kits to vulnerable populations; and to carry out programs to protect women and children and help them cope with the impact of back-to-back hurricanes.
The United States is also a large contributor to the COVAX-mechanism, which has committed to providing COVID-19 vaccines to 20 percent of the population, including the first WHO-approved vaccines for Nicaraguan children. The United States is committed to addressing the COVID-19 crisis globally and addressing the urgent humanitarian crisis in Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan government’s poor and non-transparent management of the pandemic has significantly worsened the impact of COVID-19 in the country.
The U.S. government also assists Nicaraguans through the Department of Defense Humanitarian Assistance Program. The U.S. Air Force transported goods between non-government organizations (NGO) from the United States and Canada and delivered donations to NGOs in Nicaragua. The transportation of goods among NGOs was possible through Denton Flights. The United States donated one firetruck and personnel protective equipment for firefighters in June 2021, and two ambulances and 150 mattresses in May 2022.
Bilateral Economic Relations
Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with a 2021 GDP per capita of approximately $2,100. Nicaragua’s economy continues to suffer from an ongoing political and economic crisis. Rising inflation exacerbates economic hardship that, along with the regime’s intensifying repression, drives record Nicaraguan migration to the United States. Nicaragua faces some of the highest food prices and the most expensive energy costs in Latin America. In May 2022, the price of Nicaragua’s basket of goods and services – a key measure of inflation’s impact on the general population – rose to a record high of $480 per month, more than double the minimum wage of $200. Remittances in 2021 from Nicaraguan migrants in the United States reached $1.4 billion – or 11 percent of Nicaragua’s GDP – preventing thousands of vulnerable families from falling further into poverty.
The United States and Nicaragua are parties to the U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), which aims to facilitate trade and investment and enhance regional integration by eliminating tariffs, opening markets, reducing barriers to services, and promoting transparency. Nicaragua has tripled its exports since CAFTA-DR entered into force. The United States remains Nicaragua’s top economic partner, buying 50 percent of Nicaraguan exports and supplying 27 percent of its imports, and sending 67 percent of its remittances. Total (two-way) goods trade between the two countries was $6.8 billion in 2021. The United States was also the origin of 18 percent of its tourists, according to 2020 figures.
Nicaragua’s Membership in International Organizations
Nicaragua and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, Organization of American States, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, International Criminal Police Organization, International Labour Organization, and World Trade Organization.
Principal U.S. embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List.
Nicaragua maintains an embassy in the United States at 1627 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009 (tel. 202-939-6570).
More information about Nicaragua is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here: